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Getting to know Norv; Retrospective

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Aug 17, 2007.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    By Curtis Egan
    <em>BoltTalk Staff Writer</em>

    <img src="http://www.signonsandiego.com/sports/chargers/images/070219norv_turner.jpg" title="Norv Turner" alt="Norv Turner" align="left" height="291" width="180" />Norval Eugene Turner the new head Coach of the San Diego ‘Super' Chargers, arguably one of the most talent loaded teams in the NFL. In a move that left many San Diego fans scratching their heads, or flat out predicting doom and gloom for the franchise.

    However, it is very premature to hang your head and write off the season. At no time in his past has Norv taken over as a head Coach of a team that had this level of talent, or front office savvy.

    General manager AJ Smith named Norv Turner the fourteenth Head Coach of the San Diego Chargers, largely to his familiarity and comfort level with him. But also based on the knowledge of what Norv is capable of, and how well Norv knows the current offensive system in San Diego. Norv implemented the offensive scheme in 2001, AJ Smith and team management wanted to see the continuation of the system that produced one of the best offensive units statistically last season.

    <strong>Coaching Experience:</strong>
    Norv Turner has had two previous stents as head coach in the NFL, first with the Washington Redskins (1991-1993), and then with the Oakland Raiders (2002-2003). However he has 33 years of coaching experience:
    • 1975 with the University of Oregon as an assistant.
    • The following year saw him move to the University of Southern California, where he spent 9 years (1976-1984); coaching the Wide Receivers, Quarterbacks, then as the Offensive Coordinator.
    • In 1985 he made his first step into coaching in the NFL as the Wider Receivers coach for the LA Rams over a period of six years (1985-1990).
    • The next three years (1991-1993) would see some of his most noticeable stents in coaching in the NFL as he became the Offensive Coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys for back to back victories over the Buffalo Bills in Superbowls XXVII, and XXVIII. In 1993 Norv's offensive unit sent eight players to the Probowl; Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Daryl Johnston, Nate Newton, Jay Novacek, Mark Stepnoski, and Erik Williams.
    • Norv took his first head coaching job with the Washington Redskins in 1994, where he spent the next 7 years (1994-2000).
    • After being let go by Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, Norv took over as the Offensive Coordinator for the San Diego Chargers. He only held the position for one year (2001), choosing to leave when the new Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer was brought in, in 2002.
    • In 2002 Norv took over the Offensive Coordinator position that was open in Miami, he remained there through the following year (2002-2003).
    • In 2004 the Raiders hired Norv to be their Head Coach, a position he held through 2005.
    • In 2006 he served one year as the Offensive Coordinator for the 49'ers before.
    • In 2007 Norv took the Head Coaching job in San Diego.

    Norv has seen how to get a team to the Superbowl and be victorious; he has seen dysfunctional locker rooms and meddling ownership. His record as a head coach has many scratching their head, since he has only been able to compile a 58-82-1 (.415) record as head coach.

    Only three coaches in NFL history had lower winning percentages than Turner at the time of their third hiring they are:
    • Marion Campbell (.326 when he returned to Atlanta in 1987)
    • Mike McCormack (.345 when he replaced Jack Patera in Seattle in 1982)
    • Roy Andrews (.406 when he joined the Cleveland Bulldogs as a player-coach in 1927)

    However the NFL coaching landscape also has areas of hope in this regards as well. For example, current NFL Head Coaching golden boy Bill Belichick From 1991 until 1995 was the head coach of the Cleveland Browns. During his tenure in Cleveland he compiled a 36-44 record; leading the teams to a sole playoff win in 1994. He then went on to coach the New England Patriots to three Superbowls, and a record of 75-37 in his seven seasons as Head Coach.

    I believe it is germane to the topic to point out that Norv has never worked for a GM or Owner that will allow him to implement his system and get him quality players, until now. The GM and front office play a huge role in the head coaches ability to succeed as we will see.

    <strong>The Redskin Years:</strong>
    Norvs stent in Washington cannot be written off as an utter failure. Daniel Snyder bought the redskins in 1999 and chose to retain incumbent head coach Norv turner. Daniel went on to purchase what was at the time known as the most expensive roster in football, yet they failed to make the playoffs in 2002, ending with a season record of 7-6.

    Snyder who fired Norv after the 2000 season was quoted as saying <strong>"</strong>It's all about winning,<strong>"</strong> Snyder said. <strong>"</strong>We assembled the best team we could put together. At this point we just really needed to make a change, driven with what I call some serious leadership.<strong>"</strong>

    However the talent that Snyder spent so wildly on may not have been the best use of money. One unnamed scout from an opponent was quoted by Sports Illustrated as saying:
    <strong>"</strong>The Redskins collected a bunch of great names, but I question whether they're still great players. And veterans such as <em>Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith</em> and <em>Dana Stubblefield</em> have never been good practice players.
    How will Norv Turner handle that?
    Will the young kids follow the example of the guys who don't practice hard? ...
    I don't understand how they won't have a quarterback controversy at some point this year. The owner signed Jeff George. Norv has never liked him.
    The minute Brad Johnson falters -- and he can be streaky -- the fans and the owner will be screaming for George.
    I like Johnson. He's perfect for that offense, a smart guy with an accurate arm. But the jury's out on whether he can have good back-to-back years....
    I really like their two tackles [Jon Jansen and Chris Samuels]....
    Their receivers are good enough. On defense they could have used a Gilbert Brown, a first-down run-stopper.
    Stubblefield and Dan Wilkinson aren't sound against the run. I think people will run at those two and Derek Smith, who can be pushed around. <strong>"</strong>

    This give rise to the question of how much input did Norv have to the structure of the team, or in the acquisition of veteran talent? Cornerback Deion Sanders somehow managed to negotiate an $8 million signing bonus from Snyder.

    However, prior to his release from the Cowboys released Sanders, Dallas's team doctors reportedly advised owner Jerry Jones that Sanders's efforts to compensate for the left big toe he had surgically repaired in April 1999 had caused him to hurt other body parts, notably his right hamstring and right knee during the previous season. (He had arthroscopic surgery on that knee the previous January.)

    Quarterback Jeff George was signed, over the mild objections of Coach Norv Turner, as a $4.5 million-a-year backup to the efficient Johnson. Norv was vocal in his support of Johnson, but had little true input into the signing of yet another high priced veteran.

    The Redskins had the NFL's second best offense statistically in 1999, with Johnson throwing for 4,005 yards and Davis rushing for an NFC-best 1,405. They returned in 2000 with what appeared to be, on paper a better supporting cast. However I think history has shown that no matter how much you spend on a big name, if your team does not have chemistry, if they do not become a team they will fail.

    Now you would be correct in saying that some of that is indeed the task of the coaching staff to unify the team. However when you have high priced mercenary players, who do not have a good work ethic and have not been with the team any length of time, the best coaching staff will have challenges getting the unit to gel.

    I also think that it is applicable to point out that even the Hall of Fame Coach, Joe Gibbs has not been able to find much success with the Redskins since returning from retirement. He has seen two losing season since returning to the franchise where he dominated the league in the 80's. In 2004 Gibbs' Redskins compiles a 6-10 record, and in 2006 the Redskins finished 5-11.

    <strong>Autumn Dysfunction is a Raider!</strong>
    In 2004 Norv made what I believe will be the worst choice of his coaching career. He took over a Oakland Raiders team that had imploded after going to the Superbowl just two years earlier. The team, much like the Redskins before had some high priced veteran talent with questionable work ethics.

    Also like the Redskins, Norv was coupled with a meddling owner who liked to retain as much control as possible. Norv struggles to get the most out of highly touted wide receiver Randy Moss, who admitted that he took plays off regularly, Quarterback Kerry Collins who was hot and cold at best, and the always vocal, never introspective Warren Sapp.

    During one game against the Chargers, after a Drew Brees to Antonio Gates touchdown Warren Sapp ran to the side lines and began yelling at the Head Coach. An act that had many people scratching their head, and commenting that Norv was not suited up to cover Gates, whom the Raiders Defense on the field failed to man up on.

    The team, though owner Al Davis refused to acknowledge the fact was in a rebuilding mode, and had major fractures in the locker room as the Offense and Defense accused one another of not carrying their end of the work load.

    Jerry Rice, a future hall of fame receiver publicly stated that Norv had no control over the Raiders teams he coached. Rice played for the Raiders in both of Turner's years as the team's head coach, and most likely he has an ax to grind: Turner benched Rice in 2004, leading to Rice leaving for Seattle after four games. Further I would argue due to the titanic egos in the locker room and the mentality of pointing the finger at others that the majority of the veterans had/have in Oakland that no coach would be able to have ‘<em>control</em>' over that team.

    Norv could not have succeeded in Oakland even if he had Vince Lombardi, Don Shula and Chuck Knoll on his coaching staff. The team was that fragmented, and remains so to this date.

    <p id="post_message_268274"><strong>The offensive Guru:</strong>
    Norv is known as one of the premier offensive minds of the current NFL. Every team that Norv has joined as an Offensive Coordinator has had the offense improved immediately; this began in Dallas and has carried through in all his stents as Offensive Coordinator:
    • In 1984, a year before Norv joined them Dallas had the 11th ranked offense in the league.
    • In 1985, Norv's First year he helped improve the offense to the 8th ranked offense in the league.
    • In 2000 a year before Norv joined the Chargers, the Bolts Offense ranked a mournful 28th in the league.
    • In 2001, as Offensive Coordinator of the Chargers, Norv helped the Bolts improve to the 11th ranked offense.
    • 2001, the Miami Dolphins ranked at the bottom of the League's Offenses coming in 21st.
    • After Norv joined in 2002, they improved to 15th.
    • In 2005 San Francisco 49'ers ranked dead last in Offense in the league.
    • In 2006, after Norv took over, they improved to 26th.

    Norv has shown the ability to improve an offensive unit, and a Quarterback. Troy Aikman has said his improvement as a Quarterback has a lot to do with Norv's coaching and assistance. Aikman was intercepted 36 times against just 20 touchdowns before Turner's arrival. In his second season running Turner's offense which was developed from the prolific <strong>"</strong>Air Coryell<strong>"</strong> offense the Chargers used under Don Coryell. Aikman passed for what would prove to be a career-high 3,445 yards and was the MVP of the Cowboys' Super Bowl XXVII victory over Buffalo. The following season, Aikman completed a franchise-record 69.1 percent of his passes and won a second Super Bowl ring.

    Troy invited Norv to induct him into the hall of fame, an huge honor for a coach. Aikman said [<strong>"</strong>There are other people who have had a significant impact on my career,<strong>"</strong> said Aikman, <strong>"</strong>but I don't think anyone had as significant an impact on my career as what Norv had. <strong>"</strong>

    <strong>"</strong>But that in and of itself was not going to be the determining factor as to whom presented me. It was very, very important to me, but the primary criteria for me was that I wanted someone who was going to stand up there and be someone that I could be proud of who they were as a person and someone that I had great respect for.<strong>"</strong>

    Troy also went on to say about Norv's hiring in San Diego as the Head Coach; <strong>"</strong>He had a tremendous impact on my career, <strong>"</strong> Aikman said in a statement. <strong>"</strong>I think he's an outstanding football coach. I think circumstances have kept him from having more success at some of the places he's been. I anticipate that he's going to be a great fit for the San Diego Chargers. <strong>"</strong>

    <strong>"</strong>I got to believe that Philip Rivers is awfully excited about the hiring and also LaDainian Tomlinson. I think that if you look at Norv over the years and what he's been able to do for quarterbacks and what he's meant to a number of quarterbacks, not just myself but Brad Johnson and Trent Green just to name a couple is a testament to his abilities.<strong>"</strong>
    </p><p id="post_message_268274">&nbsp;</p>

    <p id="post_message_268274"><strong>In conclusion; why Norv will be good for the Bolts:</strong>
    Aj Smith has confidence in his new head coach, for one main reason- <strong>PLAYOFFS</strong>

    Said Smith on the hiring of Norv Turner, <strong>"</strong>Game day, in the playoffs, when it's turned up a notch big-time, there are critical, critical decisions that must be made, <strong>"</strong> Smith commented. <strong>"</strong>I'll just say four, five or six decisions that take place in a game, critical decisions made by the head coach. Consult with the coordinators, yes, but you still have to make the call. The strategies, the chess game, it's all very important. You have to make the right call. I think Norv has this.<strong>"</strong>

    The players too are responding well to Norv Turner: <strong>"</strong>I am very excited to work with Norv, <strong>"</strong> NFL MVP LaDainian Tomlinson said in a statement released by the team. <strong>"</strong>We have a great relationship. Norv is a perfect fit for our team. <strong>"</strong>

    Charger fans should instantly see the upside of Norv's ability to connect on that level with a young Quarterback, because we have a situation that is very similar to that. Philip Rivers could greatly benefit from Norv's proven tutelage. Troy Aikman and Alex Smith will tell you that Turner is one of the best when it comes to mentoring young quarterbacks. Although Rivers got off to a great start last season, he hit a wall and slowed down towards the end of the season. His passer rating declined in each month of the season.

    The Chargers have more talent and stability than any other team Norv has coached. They are also more unified in the locker room and front office than the Redskins or Raiders were. The Chargers have won 35 games over the last 3 years, but lost the two playoff games they were in. AJ Smith felt that it was a coaching issue, I am guessing. He feels Norv is the resolution to that equation.

    The Chargers are not suffering from having to learn a new system on either side of the ball. Even with a major change in the coaching staff, the continuity on the Defense and Offense remains largely intact. There will be a few new wrinkles added here or there, but that is a good thing.

    Finally the reason San Diego Charger fans should all smile, AJ Smith has just coupled one of the leagues most potent and explosive offenses with one of the games greatest offensive minds. AJ has also ensured that the defensive side of the ball is well tutored brining in Ted Cottrell and Ron Rivera. Norv's coaching staff in San Diego has more than 200 man years of NFL coaching experience. Norv is not on an island, having to watch the team alone. Skilled, knowledgeable men are supporting and backing him up.

    There are no guarantees in life, definitely not in the <strong>"</strong>On any give Sunday<strong>"</strong> NFL. But I will guarantee this; there is a low chance of a repeat of the coaching performances from the Redskins and Raiders. I am leaning towards the opinion that Norv may have the tools in place, and front office support to lead this team in the manner of Belichick, erasing the questions of his past jobs and creating a dynasty, The San Diego Chargers dynasty!

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